The Four Embroidery Styles

Embroidery was first developed by local women to decorate their clothes, pouches and bedclothes. With its designs rich in life and full of colours, it has gradually developed into a national art.

Do you know there are four major traditional styles: Su, Shu, Xiang, and Yue

Su Xiu (苏绣)

Still Life I by Jenny Gao

Su is the short name for Suzhou. A typical southern water town, Suzhou and everything from it reflects tranquillity, refinement, and elegance. So does Su Embroidery.

Favoured with the advantaged climate, Suzhou with its surrounding areas is suitable for raising silk and planting mulberry trees. As early as the Song Dynasty, Su Embroidery was already well known for its elegance and vividness. In the Ming Dynasty, influenced by the Wu School of painting, it began to rival painting and calligraphy in its artistry.

In history, Su Embroidery dominated the royal wardrobe and walls. Even today, it occupies a large share of the market in China as well as in the world.

Xiang Xiu (湘绣) Hunan embroidery comes from areas around Changsha, Hunan Province. It is distinct for its starkly elegant black, white and gray colouration. Its emphasis is on contrasts of light and shade that highlight the pattern texture to give a three-dimensional effect. Xiang embroidery composition combines void and solid imagery, utilizing empty space in the same way as Chinese ink and wash paintings.

Yue Xiu (粤绣) Guangdong embroidery is crafted in Chaozhou, Guangdong Province. It is composed of intricate but symmetrical patterns, vibrant colours, varied stitches and a defined weave. Its use of primary colors, light and shade are reminiscent of western paintings.

Shu Xiu (蜀绣) Sichuan embroidery comes from areas around Chengdu, Sichuan Province. It is oldest known embroidery style in Chinese embroidery history. Its raw materials are satin and colored silk, its craftsmanship painstaking and refined. The emphasis is on even stitching, delicate coloration, and local flavor. Sichuan embroidery is used to decorate quilt covers, pillowcases, garments, shoes and painted screens.